I never saw Hercules in the theaters back when it first came out. I think I was turned off by the character designs—something which always influences me when I watch an animated film. I also pay attention to the story, and it was only mediocre in this film.
Now, I can understand why Disney didn’t stick to the original myths very closely. Hercules’ mother, Alcmene, was Zeus’ great-granddaughter. Zeus tricked Alcmene into thinking he was her husband, Amphitryon, thereby conceiving Hercules. Basically, Zeus is a totally incestuous creepy jerk, not at all the fun-loving and endearing husband shown in this film. Additionally, he and Hera don’t like each other at all in the original mythos, or at least not like shown in the film. So, not very Disney-ish fare.
Disney did include all kinds of innuendo and sexiness throughout the film, however, so not all of it was erased from the story. From Meg wagging her bent-over behind at Hercules while at the pond, to regular comments about “rippling pectorals” and such, the writers really skirted the lines of what is appropriate in a G-rated film. Add to that the lyrics and sexy posing of the Muses, and it makes me wonder who was paid off to get that G-rating. Despite all of that, the majority of the innuendo should fly right over the heads of most kids.
Coming back to the characters designs I mentioned above, I just wasn’t a fan of them. The background art and the character designs looked like they were designed by the same person, but people shouldn’t look like walking landscapes. If you laid them down and gave them the correct lighting, the characters in the film would be indistinguishable from the background art in Hercules.
I really enjoyed the instrumental music in the film. Alan Menken did a good job, as is usual for him, enhancing the feel and mood of the film through appropriate music. I was less enamored of the character songs, as they didn’t really seem to fit and the dialog in them would have been more effective if simply spoken. The bursting into song employed by several different characters just seemed out of place.
The humor employed in Hercules almost always seemed to be waiting for a “bahdah-boom” or “bah-duh-duh” to follow it. I am as big a fan of good humor as the next guy, but the constant hamming-it-up for the cameras just doesn’t appeal to me, at least not anymore. Perhaps it would be different if I was much younger.
Hercules excelled in some areas and fell flat in others, making the film overall only slightly above average. I thought the underlying message of the difference between being popular and being a true hero was good. I will likely watch it again in the future, but it won’t be with any regularity. Disney has done much better in the past and since this film was released.
Release Date: June 27, 1997 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (cigar smoking, plenty of godly social drinking)
Sexuality: 3 (Meg is a walking innuendo, as are the Muses, a fair amount of innuendo scattered all throughout the dialog)
Violence: 1 (humorous/slapstick fighting and violence, some peril, some death)